• Sunday, May 28, 2023


Edinburgh Fringe faces ‘publicly licensed racism’ allegations over a play

Recently Fringe cancelled the show of comedian Jerry Sadowitz.

Geisha is a Japanese hostess trained to entertain men (Representational image/iStock)

By: Pramod Thomas

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has been urged to introduce new guidelines after Asians claimed they were subjected to ‘publicly-licenced racism’ during a show, according to reports.

Campaign group, British East and South East Asians working in the Theatre and Screen industry (BEATS) demands new guidelines be introduced next year following the Tea Ceremony play, in which a white male actor appears as a geisha, a Japanese hostess trained to entertain men.

In the play, a white male actor, Marios Ioannou, appears as a geisha. The group claimed that the show is ‘extremely triggering and traumatic’ to those who ‘bear historical weight’ of historical abuses, media reports said.

The BEATS said that guidelines would prevent ‘publicly licensed racism on stage’.

The statement from BEATS said: “We have no wish to see a sanitised and conservative fringe. The problem is, though, that with outdated racist performance tropes, a sanitised and conservative fringe is exactly what we get.”

Meanwhile, the show’s producer has rejected any accusations of racism and Ioannou, a Cypriot performer, termed the claims as ‘unfair’.

“I am in contact with the Japanese people who worked on this performance, because they did work on it and they didn’t believe it was inappropriate. We are working on an answer from all of us,” the actor was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

“It is a very big discussion about cultural appropriation in art, and we are happy to open up a dialogue. But I was surprised this was not spoken about while we were there, only after we left, which is not very nice. There will be another staging of the Tea Ceremony in London, so it would be good to sort things out before that. We were not racist, so it was a very unnecessary comment.”

The Tea Ceremony play sees the geisha begin to question her role as a servant and entertainer. It leads the audience on a journey of modern-day abuse, child labour, human trafficking, torture and slavery, and the high price we pay for our joy and greed, reports said.

The latest event happened just weeks after the Fringe cancelled the show of comedian Jerry Sadowitz due to ‘homophobic, misogynistic and racist’ allegations.

Recently, another Edinburgh Fringe show, Shannon Matthews: The Musical, was also stooped into controversy.

Dark comedy group K*** and the Gang have sold out their four-week run of ‘Shannon Matthews: The Musical’. The performance was based on the true story of the faked abduction of nine-year-old Shannon Matthews, who was reported missing in 2008.

One of the most outspoken critics included Dewsbury’s Tory MP Mark Eastwood, who helped in the search for missing Shannon in 2008, and local Labour councillor Mussarat Pervaiz who blasted the show’s trivialisation as ‘disgusting’.

Dewsbury West Councillor Ammar Anwar said the musical is ‘bang out of order’ and ‘should have never been allowed’.

Nine-year-old Shannon was the victim of a faked kidnapping by her mother Karen Matthews in 2008, who drugged, tied up and hid her own daughter as she plotted to pocket a £50,000 reward.

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